Atleti’s proven maturity, and Valencia are back


I spoke in week 6’s talking points summary about how good Atleti had become, but one name was still on their kill list. Though they claimed the scalp of Real Madrid in last May’s cup final, they still hadn’t beaten their arch rivals in the league this century at all. As the world now knows, Atleti beat their oldest enemy this weekend thanks to a first half goal from Diego Costa, who’s on fire in the league this season.

Diego Costa grabs the main photo spot on our site two game weeks in a row

Diego Costa grabs the main photo spot on our site two game weeks in a row

Sunday’s front cover of Spanish sports daily newspaper AS read; “Millions 0-1 Football”. What was telling on Saturday evening was how good a team Atlético were in the Bernabéu. A common criticism of Real Madrid in recent years has been their inability to gel and function as a team, and that showed in the latest Derbi Madrileño. On Saturday, it was a group of men in white, versus a team in red.

Atleti recognise their abilities and also their limitations. On the ball they play their own game; Diego Costa leads the line, ferociously battling for the full 90 minutes, distribution as good as any in La Liga from Koke and Arda Turan, while captain Gabi keeps the midfield tidy. Off the ball they remain disciplined, focussed, and determined to fight and win the ball back.

Last season Atleti held onto 2nd position in the league for a long time, before eventually being pipped by Real for the runners up spot. The second derby of the campaign came at a time nearing the end of the season, with Atleti in great form, and Real Madrid in the middle of two huge games against Dortmund in the Champions League semifinal. Mourinho rested many of his first choice players for the derby, which most certainly took second preference to the Champions League games in the Real camp. If ever there was a time for Atleti to get the duck off their back and end the horrendous run of winless games against Real Madrid, it was that one.

Yet, they still lost. It was so typically Atleti, too – they even took the lead. No matter how bad it looked for Real Madrid, or how up for the fight Atlético were, they were just never able to find an answer to what their neighbours threw at them. It reached the point of absolute tedium; another derby, another Real win. However, the cup final victory was the day Diego Simeone’s team took the pressure off themselves in this fixture. They are a brand new side this year. They were very good last year, but still most certainly behind Real Madrid and Barcelona. This year, seven wins from seven in the league, two draws against Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, and two wins from two in the Champions League – Atlético Madrid are turning heads.

Real Sociedad continue their poor form with a 1-1 home draw to Sevilla. It was only last week that Sevilla took themselves off the bottom of the table, with a demolition of a Rayo Vallecano team (who moved bottom after that result) exceptionally poor at the back. La Real are yet to register a win since day one, leaving them level on wins with Sevilla and Rayo.

The Basque team have become somewhat of draw experts so far this term, with four stalemates from seven games. Though they’re not losing that many games – their only defeats are to the top two who are on perfect records – they’re not winning them either. The Sevilla game provided a perfect opportunity to get back on track and fight to regain their Champions League berth. Though they faltered this week, up next is Rayo Vallecano, the next perfect opportunity…

Jonas celebrates his winner vs Rayo

Three in a row: Jonas celebrates his winner for Valencia vs Rayo

Valencia on the other hand are back on track. A couple of weeks ago, their fans had plenty of cause to complain, with only three points and lingering not far above the relegation zone. Wins against Sevilla, Granada, and then Rayo have shot them up the table, with their situation looking very different now. Valencia now sit two points behind 4th place, and only four behind Real Madrid.

More good news for Valencia comes in the shape of Athletic Bilbao‘s and Villarreal‘s poor performances this week. Athletic visited Granada on Monday night, and were just shut out, while Villarreal lost their unbeaten record with a dismal display against Real Betis. Granada were strong enough and took the lead due to a questionable refereeing decision for a penalty, but other than that looked good for the win. Villarreal, however, were beaten by a team who were equally unable to get a fluent style of play going. The Yellow Submarine have won over many hearts so far this year with their admirable attacking style of play, but simply couldn’t string the right passes together on Sunday night.

Lastly, Elche have recorded their first top flight win since their promotion last season. The 2012/13 Segunda champions had a trip to Galicia to play Celta Vigo, and came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to Javi Marquez. Celta will certainly feel bitter over the result, however, with a late equaliser being wrongly chalked off for offside. Justice for last gameweek, perhaps?

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